Jamie Hopkins is the Managing Director of Carson Coaching and Director of Retirement Research at Carson Group, a national wealth management firm that offers coaching and partnership to financial advisors. He is a nationally recognized writer, researcher, and educator, and is a regular contributor for Forbes, InvestmentNews, and MarketWatch. Hopkins has been published in dozens of financial, educational, and legal journals, and he’s the media’s go-to expert on retirement income planning and tax law.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

My childhood was shaped, like a lot of people, by my family experiences. My dad passed away at a young age, when I was very young, from a workplace accident. My mom then raised us and ran her own business. This created a level of trauma but also resilience. My mom became my hero. To see her drive and work ethic is just beyond amazing. She always places her family first and helped lift our family up during difficult times.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

I wish I would have realized how many things were possible if you committed to them earlier in life. For instance, I didn’t know I could be great at academics or sports at a young age, and honestly through most of college. It was only later in life that I started to believe in my own capabilities and learned that with the right process and dedication the limits I thought were there were not. Too many people suffer from self-doubt and place mental hurdles in front of their goals. Some of these hurdles are placed by society in our minds, telling us we aren’t good enough, or we don’t come from the right background for success. It was only later on that I realized there were more paths to success and greatness than I knew.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

I really work in two areas professionally. First, I help train financial advisors. Second, I help consumers achieve a more secure financial future, mostly through better retirement planning. In the financial advisor area, the worst advice I see is around focusing on your weaknesses to improve. There is a whole world and cottage industry built on trying to help people with their professional weaknesses. But, in reality, what I see is that in your professional career you need to focus on your strengths.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

Losing family at an early age was hard. Family is core to my life and it can make you question the “why” of life. I think it’s important to spend time on life’s bigger questions and picture your meaning and place at these times. Remember to rely on loved ones and family.

A second tough time in life was when my career became work for me and I started to burn out. I didn’t trust my direction and felt that I was heading the wrong way. It was not an overnight fix and it did require me to change course. Honestly, it took a lot of planning and many months to correct course and get back to doing something I loved and believed in day in and day out.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Support around me has been a huge contributing factor to my success. But also, you must believe in yourself. I couldn’t accomplish anything if I doubted myself. This does not mean I believe I am perfect or better than anyone. In a lot of ways, it is the opposite. I know that I am willing to learn and grow into any challenge that presents itself.

Another thing that has been successful for me is writing. Take the time and write. But pick something you love and have a unique voice around. Writing opens your mind and creates opportunities you never could have imagined.

What is your morning routine?

I wish I had a routine anymore. I do believe a lot of very successful people have structured routines in their mornings, from clothing, to food, to exercise. I do not. I wake at all different hours depending on when I go to sleep. Sometimes I work until 2 am and that might mean I sleep till 7 am. Other times I am up before 6 and out the door for a run. I also travel a lot for work, so my schedule changes with the city, time zone, and my requirements there. In essence, my mornings are organized chaos. The only way to make sure you succeed each day is to stay focused. So I do practice every morning doing a “6 Most” list. Here are the 6 most important things to accomplish each day. I also try to do a 6-10 most important list for each week. This helps you stay focused and on task with your goals.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Exercise is an important habit. I grew up playing sports but picked up running after college. This has helped me have me time, get outside, get in cardio, and clear my thoughts. I actually do a lot of my planning and writing while running. I think of topics, and structure them in my head on my runs. This makes me much more efficient when it is time to put the pen to the paper (not that I handwrite articles…just a saying) and draft an article. This also created some structure to my days, I ran at one point for 3004 consecutive days outside. This taught me too many lessons to put down here, but mostly about grit – the ability to overcome obstacles. I ran in snow, heat, rain, pain, and through injury.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Start with your end in sight. What do you want to accomplish? Often people tell me something they are doing and I dive into the “why” and it is not always clear. Ask yourself the question, is this important? Then ask it again. If you truly think it is important and moving you toward a meaningful goal, then it is a task worth doing. If it is not, can you outsource it or even just say no? To be productive you need to prioritize your time. But you cannot prioritize if you don’t start with the goals and end in sight.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

Books, writing, and reading have all become a major part of my life. I’ve now written two e-books, worked on four textbooks, and published two editions of my book Rewirement.

When I look back on my life, I have been majorly influenced by three books during different time periods in my life. Early in my life, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien was the most influential book. It gave me wonder, a sense of journey, magic, and mystery. I still think about the book and my memories of reading it when I was young.

Next, I have professionally been influenced a lot by Life and Death Planning for Retirement Benefits by Natalie Choate. This might seem odd, but this book has been a constant companion on my travels throughout the last decade of my career.

More recently, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo has been impactful. It has helped me reshape how I see our country and society and the role that I need to play moving forward.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“Process is a blueprint for success.” I have modified this a bit over the years, but this quote comes from my long-time coach Bob Bowman, Olympic Swimming Coach, Head Coach at Arizona State University, and Michael Phelps’ coach. Coach Bowman played a very important role in my life, as well as many other lives. He shaped how we pursue excellence. Process and the importance of goal setting and achieving outcomes became more important to me over time, and I have been blessed to have learned those lessons from one of the all-time greatest coaches.